John Callea admits he doesn't know much about art. But he has come to appreciate what it can do to brighten up his business.
Customers stopping in the Rising Sun Cafe for a quick breakfast or lunch will often linger at the expansive brick walls, where at any given time about 40 works by local artists are hung.
Since offering up the Rising Sun as a site for the Spring Hill Art League's "Art in Public Places" initiative last May, Callea has not only seen a marked increase in traffic, his customers seem to stick around longer.
"It's become a win-win situation for everyone," said Callea, who runs the business with his wife, Lisa. "Art brings an atmosphere of charm and sophistication that I love. It also gives these wonderfully talented people a nice venue where they can express themselves."
As an "Art in Public Places" site, the Rising Sun is committed to a revolving bimonthly exhibit of works chosen by artists from Spring Hill Art League. In addition, the Calleas invite other local artisans to display their works.
Lynn Simone of the art league said the downtown bistro, which is one of 11 sites her club sponsors, has grown to become one of Hernando County's prime art galleries.
"The fact that it's located in an area that's easily accessible to the public has been a definite plus," Simone said. "I think people are excited when they walk in and see the quality of art that's on display."
Callea said part of the enjoyment of showing the works of local artists is seeing the reaction of out-of-town customers who stop by.
"It's amazing," Callea said. "You'll get a guy from Tampa come in and say, 'I'll have a breakfast sandwich and that $300 painting over there.' "
Callea says that in an average month he sells about 40 pieces of art. Although he earns a small commission on each sale, he donates all proceeds to the Love Your Neighbor homeless outreach ministry and food pantry that he and his wife started last year.
A supporter of the weekly Farmer's Market and the monthly Market on Main Street, Callea believes that downtown Brooksville is a perfect venue for a periodic outdoor art festival some day.
"We certainly have our share of talented people here in this county," he said. "It would be nice to have an event where we could bring them all together."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.